Feb 7, 2011

The Contemplative Life

Much of what Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, had to say is very Celtic in nature. I will just leave you with this snippet. Let me know what you think. I'd love some comments!


  1. Be careful with Merton. At the end of his life, he was a Buddhist.

  2. I LOVE Thomas Merton! Have read the autobiography and the biography and a couple of his own too. My fave though is a daily reader (kinda like a devotional) with pieces from all of them. He was quite a character.

  3. When Merton (and others) speaks of contemplation, he doesn't mean simply taking time to slow down, get away from busyness, think and pray. He means using breath control and mantra meditation to achieve an altered state, a place of no thought that supposedly brings one into contact/union with "God." Not biblical. And common to all mystic faith traditions, Hindu/Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, New Age, new spirituality. An atheist could do it too.

  4. At the end of his life he was looking at the spirituality of the Buddhists. I don't think he was a Buddhist, Diane.

  5. I can check further, Cindy. (Though I'm not sure why a follower of Jesus needs to learn about spirituality from anyone other than him.)

    I'm not into arguing over this kind of thing, just putting out a word of caution. There's a definite pattern among Christian contemplatives--eventually they begin to question, wander, and leave biblical faith in Jesus.

    I appreciate the dialogue.


  6. Actually, Diane, I assure you that Merton did not become a Buddhist at any time in his life. Merton's works are still in print and available; they have the imprimatur of the Catholic Church, which means they are officially approved, that the theology contained in them is, well, biblical. :)

  7. Diane,
    In response to your comment, I believe God speaks in many different ways. He is still in the World and constantly revealing himself. The Bible is only one way He does that.

  8. Beautiful clip, Cindy. Thank you. I particularly like the desert imagery in this reading that recalls Christ's own time of contemplation in the wilderness.

    Diane - While I agree that "contemplation" as it is often interpreted today frequently results in fuzzy bunny theology that has little or nothing to do with Christ, I hesitate to tar all Christian contemplatives with the same brush. To do so is to eliminate the great monastic (& therefore contemplative) traditions of the Middle Ages among others. To contemplate is part of what God asked his people to do throughout the Word. Mary contemplated as she watched her Son grow into manhood, for example. Also, Mary (the sister of Lazarus)recieved praise from Christ for choosing to contemplate (that is - look at attentively and thoughtfully) his teachings instead of getting the house ready like Martha was doing. God asks us to love him with our hearts, souls, and MINDS (Matt 18: 37-38) - contemplation is one way to do that.

    Thanks again, Cindy. :) mk

    (BTW - I lurk on the Celtic Christianity yahoo group; I followed the link to your blog from there, in case you're wondering where this complete stranger came from)

  9. Greetings all,

    Diane, I'm sure you are well aware that in any congregation (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) this saying is always held true - 90% of the word is done by 10% of the members. Any group of people has two types of members, those who work and those who take up space! The same holds true in Christianity, some want 'more' while others are content to sit and wait.

    Seeking 'more' in a relationship is never a bad thing. God granted us with His passion!! To those who sit and wait, this might seem dangerous and its true - they might begin to desire the 'more' also. Their life will be changed radically if they sought more!

    From Joshua 1:8 we are admonished to 'meditate' on the word of God. For the Celts, as well as many other Christian sects, God is everywhere we look and see His handiwork. It is well worth leaving the pews and seeing Christ all around and within all that have life! In my opinion...

  10. Thanks, Pak, for commenting. I think contemplation is too often missed by Christians.

    Thanks, Marty and Jamie, and Diane, for your comments!

  11. As a contemplative and growing mystic, I can assure you that it is not about embracing just anything. I think some of the best words on mysticism (and, in my opinion, its sister, the contemplative lifestyle) comes from The Big Book of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman. Here are some quotes that I think are particularly appropriate for this discussion.

    "Nonetheless, while it is helpful to draw a distinction between Christianity-the-religion and Christian mysticism, the tradition has consistently emphasized that you cannot be a Christian mystic without engaging with the social and communal dimensions of Christian faith. Indeed, the more authentic a Christian mystic is, the more engaged he or she will be with even the most mundane aspects of religious Christianity."

    "Christian mysticism pursues participation with God, communion with God, and even experience of union with God, but always distinguishes creator from creature."

    "Christian mysticism invites you to do more than just know about God, or Christ, or spiriotual transformation. It invites you into God, and into Christ, and into the experience of transformation that can come about only through the love and grace of God. It's intimate; it's heartfelt and mindful; it's oriented toward making a real, powerful, profound and lasting difference in your life and your relationships."



  12. Thanks for sharing that, David. A great perspective.